SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - A program through the San Diego Financial Literacy Center is helping military servicemen and women learn the basics of a budget, so they can make it in San Diego.
Four times a year, the "Boost for our Heroes" program gives out a $3,000 grant to help a struggling military member or family stabilize their budget. It then enrolls the awardee in financial literacy classes to make sure they don't fall back into financial distress.
"The goal is to have them put what they learned into action and have it just be a way of life," says Chase Peckham, the SDFLC Director of Community Outreach. "It's better decision making, and that’s what personal finance is."
Peckham says it's especially important for the military in San Diego, who have a higher cost of living than their counterparts stationed in cheaper areas of the country.
For many of them, the military is their first taste of financial freedom and they haven't learned how to manage money.
"A lot of these kids come out young, they go right into the service, they don’t have a heck of a lot of experience in life," Peckham says. "So they don’t even understand what it’s like to live day to day, pay the bills... The daily grind of paying a bill, water bill, finding a home, doing all that stuff is kind of an afterthought."
Since 2014, the Boost program has helped 35 military families and given out more than $100,000. In addition to the families that receive the grant, every family that applies gets free financial education.
"We're not working in the stock market," says Peckham. "You don’t have to be an economist or an accountant. You don’t even have to be good at math."
Al Lejarde and his family received the grant in 2019. He was in danger of losing his home and wanted to build a better life for his wife and son.
"(I learned) it’s okay to increase your financial literacy," Lejarde says. "It’s okay to come from a place of having financial illiteracy."
"We’ve learned about making better choices and we really understood the concept of want vs need," adds Kristin Lejarde, Al's wife. "We have open communication and it’s not a shame or fear anymore if one of us is struggling with a bill. Or if something new comes up, it’s no longer terror of oh my gosh what are we going to do?"
Al now teaches financial literacy to other military fathers, through the "Dads Corps" with SAY San Diego. He says he's proud to share his story and give back.
"I always give a disclaimer. I tell them I’m a family member that understands the situations families in SD go through. I have the perspective as a father and parent, and I talk to them and connect to them on that level," says Lejarde.
Peckham says the program can be "life-changing."
"They’re not in the dark anymore," he says. "They’re more prepared for those types of things that happen in their lives."While the Boost for our Heroes program is only for the military, the San Diego Financial Literacy Center has other programs available to hoping to learn more about money management.
For more information, visit their website here.